The Significance Of Edgar Allan Poe

’s Fiction Essay, Research Paper

In the beginning of the 1800 s many writers emerged in America, but most were frowned upon because their writing did not interest the public. One may think that writers are boring, but writers and poets were the rock stars of the nineteenth century. Some of the most famous authors used their philosophy to explore the dark side of one s mind. Poe s use of horror scared most of his readers away during his time, but now he is being commended for his unique style and ingenious works. Edgar Allan Poe has profoundly influenced literature along with movies and stories. He is credited with the transformation of the short story from anecdote to art. Using his amazing imagination, Poe was able to create a fantasies in his fiction to strengthen his plot and lasting impression. Edgar Allan Poe uses unique narration, time devices, and unusual settings in his tales to explain how fantasy can become reality. Edgar Allan Poe uses unique narration in his tales occasionally to let the reader enter the confused mind of the narrator. Many of Poe s stories include a nameless narrator telling his stories. Nameless narrators occur frequently in Poe s tales which are know for their docility and humanity of disposition (Lowell 7). Tales including The Masque of the Red Death and The Tell-tale Heart give background information, but Poe never introduces the narrator. However, each narrator is distinct from eachother in all the stories. Some of the narrators are sane and some are insane. Poe reminds us quite often what a fine line separates sanity from insanity (Warren 2). Poe includes a nameless narrator in his tales by frequently using first person narration. Poe uses first person narration to intensify the horror by not stating a name so the story can apply to anyone (Fagin 68). In M Valdemar Poe wants to reader to feel like he is in the story at the bed of a dying man by trying to make this fantasy seem real. When a name is not given, the reader feels like he is in place of the narrator. The reader is able to experience all the confusion and anxiety that the narrator is feeling. This gives a more realistic appearance to the fantasy that Poe is creating. Poe s narrators all seem to be in a dream throughout his stories. Martha Womack agrees that the reader glimpses into the soul of a man (narrator) who dwells in mournful and never-ending remembrance (Womack 1). In The Tell-tale Heart the narrator and the reader both experience madness and confusion (Poe 800). James Gargano believes that Poe understands his narrators better they understand themselves (Gargano 309). The narrator is beyond the wildest imagination enshrouded in pitchy darkness in MS in a bottle (Poe 136). These narrators of his stories all seem to a be in a terrible reality, which is characterized by intense dreaming. According to James Lowell the narrators mind often has gone over the brink of sleep and descended into dreams (Lowell 7). The Fall of the House of Usher includes the phrase they who by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night (Poe 536). Poe s narrators descend into a fantasy by dreaming. The narrators have dreamt themselves free of their physical body according to David Halliburton (Halliburton 24). In MS. in a Bottle the narrator explains that there will occasionally flash across my mind a sensation of familiar things…an unaccountable memory (Poe 140). The narrator is in dream, so he is having reality checks to find out if he is really experiencing these fantasies. Poe uses his ingenious narration to pull his reader into the dreaming mind of the narrator in which anything could become reality.

Not only does Edgar Allan Poe use unique narration, but he also includes many time devices in his tales to enter the imagination of the reader. In Poe s short stories he presents many clocks and clock s imagery. But the image of the clock that haunted the creative region of Poe s unconsciousness seems to have proliferated into a multitude of aspects and elements (Weber 92). In his tales, Poe s writing incorporates numerous clocks many ways by his settings. In the Masque of the Red Death Poe uses phrases such as gigantic clock of ebony with its forceful chimes (Poe 741). The The Fall of the House of Usher represents a clock, and those who dwell in it are two clock hands (Poe 532). Poe creates a fantasy with all these clocks, but it seems like a reality. It took years after he published M. Valdemar to persuade the public it was fiction. It is true in his tales that a clock does not just indicate time, but it is also a mechanical contrivance made up of diverse parts (Weber 97). He includes many clocks, because the human mind is made up the same way. Then Poe can enter the reader s imagination through a unbelievable fantasy. Poe incorporates specific times of day in his tales frequently. According to Jean-Paul Weber, Poe is fond of using specific hours of the day such as three o clock, six o clock, nine o clock, twelve o clock (Weber 81). In The Devil and the Belfry Poe writes it wanted five minutes of noon and it wanted three minutes of noon (Poe 514). In M. Valdemar everything was undisturbed until about three o clock (Poe 1068). Poe has a love for the witching hour of twelve midnight. In The Tell-tale Heart he writes And this I did for seven long nights every night at midnight but I found the eye always closed (Poe 800). He frequently includes midnight in his tales to let the reader enter the fantasy of time and its power. Symbols in Poe s tales are used to represent the importance of time in his stories. The Tell-tale Heart includes the endless beating of the old man s heart which is a time device used as a clock. Poe uses his creative mind to insert time into his stories by his settings or just by his characters. In The Devil and the Belfry, Poe s sixty houses represent the second marks of a clock. The houses are lined up in a continuous row in a circle (Poe 515). Poe constantly makes use of the ticking of a clock in his stories. He makes the reader acknowledge that time is a very important factor in the world. That is why we see Edgar Allan Poe in a disguise as the maniac of time (Guran 1). Edgar Allan Poe uses time devices in his tales frequently, furthermore, he uses unusual settings also to portray a fantasy that becomes real. Many of his short stories are characterized by settings of death and fear. Richard Wilbur recognizes Poe s use of ugly and harrowing things from which men automatically avert their eyes (Wilbur 53). The Masque of the Red Death includes words like sharp pains, dizziness, and profuse bleeding at the pores (Poe 739). These are settings of terrible nightmares which become a unbelievable reality to the narrator. Poe occasionally represents figures against violet or greenish backgrounds in which are revealed the phosphorescence of decay and the smell of storms (Zayed 84). Through Poe s use of horrific settings, he can create a gloomy fantasy seems true because of all his tiny details and vivid descriptions. In The Fall of the House of Usher Poe begins his tales with during the whole, dark, and soundless day…a sense of gloom pervaded my spirit (Poe 532). It is evident that Edgar Allan Poe wants his reader to enter the world fantasy by giving such extensive descriptions of his settings. To portray a fantasy, Poe s settings and objects have round or circular features. According to Martha Womack, “the heroes of Poe’s tales are circumscribed by whirlpools” (Womack 1). Poe incorporates many circles and circular objects, especially whirlpools to display his dreamlike settings. In MS Found in a Bottle Poe s writes …the whirlpool of the mountainous and foaming ocean, and …within the grasp of the whirlpool. (Poe 136). Christopher Warren agrees that Poe s rooms tend to have a curving or circular form (Warren 1). Such as in The Devil and the Belfry, where every house has a small garden before it, with a circular path, a sun-dial, and twenty-four cabbages with a perfectly circular valley. All these circular objects and settings are an example of Poe s dreams that he creates. The characters seem petrified of these terrible settings, because they believe everything is a true reality. Poe s settings are characterized by a state of mind or a dream. In Poe s or palaces, with their eye-like windows and mouth-like doors represent the physical features of Poe s dreaming narrators (Halliburton 21). Poe incorporates human traits into his settings which present a fantasy to the narrator. The Fall of the House of Usher has vacant eye-like windows (Poe 533). The Masque of the Red Death has seven chambers which stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams (Poe 741). These dreams caused the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps (Poe 743). These unusual settings create a fantasy in the readers conscious like a delusive dream. According to George Zayed, Poe makes constant use of the correspondence between the natural setting and the state of mind of his protagonist (Zayed 89). Poe creates a unrealistic dream with the use of his character s unconscious. Poe has added many unusual aspects to his settings to give them an unique effect which invade the reader s mind to display a fantasy that becomes true. In conclusion, Edgar Allan Poe uses unique narration, time devices, and unusual settings to explain how fantasy can become reality in his tales. In the early nineteenth century some readers even thought some of his tales were true stories because of his incredible descriptions. It is well proven that Poe has influenced the minds of countless readers with his fiction because of his unique style. Poe would, no doubt, be dealing with computers, psychology of serial killers, and other popular topics today. His invention of the detective story has inspired many imitators, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. He created the opposition of good and evil which will continue to dominate American literature for decades.


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